Crawling inside the mind of Scott Brown

The news broke Wednesday morning in the Des Moines Register: Scott Brown is going (back) to Iowa.


In this Nov. 4, 2012, file photo, then-Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., waves to supporters from his bus after a campaign rally at Faneuil Hall in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)

Now, regular readers of this blog know that we have long held to this simple political truth: No politician goes to Iowa by accident. Doesn't happen. If you go, it's because you are at least thinking about running for president.

So, the logical conclusion of Brown's planned visit -- to speak at the Ringgold County GOP dinner on April 3 -- is that he wants to run for president or, at the very least, have people like us speculate that he wants to run for president.  (That goes triple when you consider that this will be Brown's third trip to Iowa in the past year.)

But, wait, you say. Isn't Scott Brown being actively recruited by national Republicans to challenge Sen. Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire this fall? And didn't he move from Massachusetts to the Granite State permanently? And didn't he have his (shirtless) picture taken at a polar bear plunge in New Hampshire?  Yes, yes and yes.

Because of all of the activity surrounding Brown and the New Hampshire Senate race, the conventional wisdom in D.C. political circles was/is that Brown is focused on running against Shaheen. But, this latest Iowa foray raises questions in our minds about what actually Brown is thinking.  Here's our best read out on what's inside the former Senator's head right now.

It's clear -- and has been for some time -- that Brown would like to be president. (Who wouldn't?) At the Iowa State Fair in 2013, Brown was open about his interest: “I’m going to be coming out more often to try to determine whether there’s an interest in my brand of leadership and Republicanism."  Then in December in New Hampshire, Brown said "I don't think anything's off the table at this point."

And remember that no star rose faster or higher in the Republican universe than Brown's. He went from an unknown state Senator to the biggest name in the GOP in the space of a few months in late 2009 and early 2010 when he won the special election to replace the late Ted Kennedy.  That kind of rapid ascent can give you a feeling that the political world is your oyster and, heck, why shouldn't you run for president?

Of course, Brown's rise was clipped in 2012 when he lost convincingly in his reelection bid against Democrat Elizabeth Warren. While the race was always seen as a difficult one for Brown to win, his eight-point defeat surprised even many Republicans who had expected he would be more competitive.

That all gets us to Scott Brown, present day -- and this basic conundrum: If he runs for the Senate in 2012 and loses (a real possibility), the idea of a presidential bid disappears. But, if Brown passes on the Senate race, does he remain relevant enough to voters in places like Iowa and, yes, New Hampshire, to run for president in two more years time?  At that point, Brown would be four years removed from his last race, a race that he lost.  Is that the sort of top spot on the resume that voters in early primary and caucus states are looking for?

Add this thought on top of the above paragraph: Does Brown even really want to run for president or does he want to simply make sure he is part of the great mentioning that ensures he will be part of the eventual vice presidential chatter?  And this one, courtesy of WaPo's Karen Tumulty: "It could all be an elaborate fan dance by a faded phenom, aimed at maintaining the kind of interest that fuels speaking fees and television appearances."

Now you start to see why Brown's decision is complicated -- and why he hasn't made it yet.  Circle June 13 on your calendar. That's the filing deadline to run for Senate in New Hampshire.  All -- or at least most -- should be clear by then.

Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House.
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